Friday, October 24, 2008

Revelation 2: 1 through 11

I. Construction of the 7 letters

A. Command: write “to the angelos…”

1. Pronounced angelos; means messenger

2. Could represent a heavenly counterpart to the church – Hebrews 8:4-5

3. Could represent a human intermediary

a) A messenger who would bring messages to the church

b) The bishop of the church – episkopos – 1 Timothy 3:1-7

4. Could represent a prevailing spirit within the church

5. Could represent a guardian angel

B. Christ’s description – “the one who…”

1. Each description is directly linked to Jesus Christ

2. Each description is linked to an element of the description in the introduction

3. Each introduction is directly related to the current state of the church being addressed

4. “thus says”

a) This is an Old testament echo of “thus says the Lord”

b) It is an introductory statement of impending prophetic message

C. Commendation

1. 6 Churches receive commendation for a worthwhile quality

2. It focuses on the churches’ good works

D. Accusation

1. 5 church are criticized for a quality contrary to Christ’s purpose

2. Compromising the faith is a repeated problem

E. Exhortation to repent

1. The churches that are criticized

2. Encouraged to return to a former state or change completely

3. A threat is present conditioned on Christ’s return

F. Promise

1. Given to those who conquer or overcome

G. Exhortation to discern – “to those with ears to hear…”

II. Purpose of the 7 letters

A. Affirmation of the churches

1. They are commended on remaining faithful

2. There is a promise for those who remain faithful

B. Admonitions for “faults”

1. There are accusations for acts or attitudes within the church contrary to Christ

2. There is instruction to repent or change

3. There are conditional threats of “punishment”

C. When we understand this as addressed to the universal church

1. Exhortation to discern is the “churches”

2. 2:23 – that all churches may know

3. Early church writers believed it was addressed to the universal church

D. Commentary on the state of the whole church

1. Chiastic structure

a) First and last are in danger of losing their Christian identity

b) Three middle churches are at varying degrees of remaining faithful and/or compromising to culture

c) Second and Sixth churches have been faithful even through persecution

2. Emphasizes

a) More churches are unhealthy than healthy in regards to faithful works

b) Emphasis points in the middle to churches with serious problems

c) The boundary letters are church in danger of losing their association with Christ

III. 7 Churches

A. Ephesus – Selcuk

1. Background

a) Politics and economics – Ephesus was the chief administration city in Asia Minor for the Roman Empire. This city was where Roman officials would arrive and leave Asia Minor. It was a commercially important city due to a manmade harbor. Eventually that harbor was filled with silt from river deposits and the city moved. This was also the western anchor for the Lower Royal road, a trade route to Mesopotamia.

b) Geography – Ephesus moved a number of times in its history. It is located on the Cayster River. Marsh lands have developed due to the silt that has been deposited.

c) Religion – Ephesus was a center for the worship of Artemis as well as 6 imperial temples. The Temple of Artemis was the 7th wonder of the ancient world.

d) Population – It is estimated that Ephesus could have had 250,000-300,000 citizens making it the 4th largest city at the time of the Roman Empire.

e) Ephesus had a very large Christian influence. It is mentioned a number of times in the New Testament. Paul stayed there for some time. John is believed to have lived, died, and was buried there. It is also tradition that John moved Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Ephesus.

2. Christ’s Introduction

a) Standing among the 7 lampstands

(1) Christ is present among the 7 churches

b) Holding the 7 stars

(1) “Angels” are within the authority of Christ

3. Commendation

a) Works and labor

b) Perseverance

c) Acts against “false apostles”

(1) False apostles are determined through examination of their lives and teaching.

(2) Examined on the basis of doctrinal integrity

d) Hate the practices of the Nicolaitans

(1) Nicolaitans taught that some degree of participation in the idolatrous culture of the Ephesians was acceptable

(a) Specifically eating meat sacrificed to idols and fornication

4. Accusation

a) They have lost their first love

(1) Passionate devotion to Christ

(2) Unconditional love for brothers and sisters

(3) Passion for witnessing to the unchurched world

5. Promise

a) Eat from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22)

6. Exhortation to repent

a) Remember their prior state

b) Repent from their current state

c) Return to their prior works

7. Threat if they don’t - remove their lampstand

a) Reference to the lampstands Christ stands among

b) They will no longer be identified with Christ

c) Their Christian identity in the spiritual realm would be lost

B. Smyrna – Izmir

1. Background

a) Politics – Smyrna was a trading city located on a secure natural harbor. It was very loyal to Rome. There was also a large Jewish influence in this city.

b) Economics – Smyrna was the economical rival of Ephesus. Its natural harbor did not suffer the weaknesses of Ephesus so it remained a viable seaport. It was also surrounded by fertile farm lands. The Hermus River flowed into the harbor.

c) Culture – Smyrna was a planned city with roads laid out in geometric designs and had many beautiful buildings. It was the home of a number of poets and is the reported home of Homer. It was a very rich city known for wine, science, and medicine. It’s stadium sat 20,000 people.

d) Population – Smyrna is believed to have had 100,000 to 200,000 citizens.

e) Religion – Smyrna was dedicated to the imperial cult; worship of Roman emperors. It was the center of worship for numerous Caesars. It also had a large Jewish population. Later Smyrna was an important Christian city.

f) It is the only city of the 7 church cities still inhabited.

2. Introduction of Christ

a) First and the Last

(1) Similar to the introduction of God in the introduction

(2) Refers to Lord of all creation

b) “who died and came to life again”

(1) Reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection

(2) Implied reference to Christ’s sacrifice

3. Commendation

a) Christ knows their sufferings through afflictions

(1) Hostile anti-Christian sentiments in the city

(a) Confirms that some persecution was occurring at the time of the writing

(2) Slander by the Jews

(a) Disloyal to the empire

(b) Atheists – did not believe in God but a man

(c) Split families

(d) Cannibalism and orgies

(3) Poverty – financially destitute

4. Accusation – none

5. Exhortation to repent

a) Do not fear the things which will happen

(1) Imprisonment

(2) Death

(3) Persecution for 10 days – Daniel 1:12-15

b) Be faithful even to death

6. No threat since there is no accusation

7. Promise

a) Crown of life

(1) Eternal life

(2) Crown associated with victory or joy; not a rulers crown

b) Avoid the second death

(1) Rabbinic teaching of death in the next life for disobedient

(2) Physical then spiritual death possible

(3) Cast into the lake of fire (20:14)

Revelation 1:11 through 20

I. Vision of the Man

a. “I turned to see the voice”

i. Could imply John turned to see the speaker

1. Represents a heavenly creature

ii. Old Testament references to “seeing the voice/sound” related to God

1. Exodus 20:18, 22

2. Daniel 7:11

3. Deuteronomy 4:12

4. Several prophets refer to words they saw

a. Isaiah 2:1; 13:1

b. Jeremiah 23:18

c. Amos 1:1

d. Micah 1:1

e. Habakkuk 1:1

iii. Also a warning to us that what we are about to see is symbolism

b. Seven golden lampstands

i. In terms of imagery, the Temple atmosphere is implied

1. The closest representation is that of the menorah from Old Testament tabernacle/temple

ii. Arranged around the man

1. The Temple menorah were placed before the Lord (Exodus 21:27; Leviticus 24:2-4)

2. These are situated to burn before the Son of Man

iii. Zechariah 4:1-4, 10

1. Seven lamps are the eyes of the Lord

2. Revelation 1:20 interprets the lamp stands as the seven churches

c. Son of Man

i. Reference to Daniel 7 and 10

1. The Son of Man and Ancient of Days are combined in this person

2. Jesus referred to himself as son of man

ii. Qualities to which John is drawn

1. Clothed in a robe and sash/girdle/belt

a. Much has been made of this as a priestly garment

b. Since we have little in way of description, it is inconclusive

c. If the lamp stands do create a temple atmosphere, priestly garments are appropriate interpretations

2. White head and hair

a. It is more appropriate to understand this as “white head, that is, hair”

b. Feature of the Ancient of Days from Daniel 7:9

c. OT and Near Eastern culture had certain attitudes toward “elderly”

i. Respect, honor, wisdom, and high social status

3. Eyes like fire

a. Some believe that this is a statement of judgment

b. Also allusion to Daniel 10:6

4. Feet like bright bronze

a. The Greek word is only used here in Revelation

b. Daniel 10:6

c. This person is barefoot – perhaps a nod to lack of special priestly footwear when officiating

d. Represents strength and stability or moral purity

5. Voice like many waters

a. Again a reference to a “loud” voice

b. Ezekiel 43:2

c. Some hold that the sound of the surf on Patmos was an inspiration for this image

6. Seven stars in his right hand

a. Revelation 1:20 interprets this as seven angels

b. Right hand represents power or authority

i. Authority over the churches

ii. Protection/judgment over the churches

c. Some see the stars as adopted from mythology/astrology

7. Sharp, two-edged sword from his mouth

a. Image found only in Revelation

b. Always refers to Christ

c. Sword’s function is mentioned in 2:16 and 19:15

i. Fight against those who do not repent

ii. Smite the nations

d. Sword is used as a metaphor for the tongue

i. Power then lies with words or speech

ii. Reason, effective speech, and Word of God are all compared to a sword or dagger

1. Psalm 52:2; 57:4

2. Ephesians 6:17

3. Hebrews 4:12

iii. Isaiah 11:4 – justice is the rod from his mouth

8. Face shining like the sun

a. Metaphor for holiness or divinity or transcendence

b. Spoken of in relation to theophanies (experience of meeting God)

c. Tradition of brightness of the faces of the righteous

d. Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:3)

iii. The person speaks to John

1. John falls down at the person’s feet

a. Common response when heavenly creatures are encountered

b. Isaiah 6 – undone

2. Words of assurance to John

a. Do not be afraid

b. Accompanied by the right hand

3. Identification

a. I am – identified with Christ’s “I am” statements as well as God

b. First and last

i. Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12 – refers to God

ii. Occurs again in Revelation referring to Christ

c. Living One, I was dead, I am alive forevermore

i. Jewish tradition names God as the Living God

ii. Resurrection affirmation

d. Keys of death and Hades

i. Represent authority over the realms of the dead

4. Commission

a. Some see this as the outline of the entire book

i. Things you have seen – this vision

ii. Things which are – current state of churches

iii. Things which will take place – eschaton

b. John is commanded to write about the visions

5. Interpretation

a. Jesus gives understanding regarding the “mystery”

b. Similar to parable constructions

i. Story – interpretation

ii. Image – interpretation

c. Seven stars are the angels

d. Seven lamp stands are the churches