(An introduction to a study of the seven letters to the churches in Revelation, with the focus on believers being overcomers and light in the darkening world)
What is important to the Lord Jesus Christ regarding our spiritual condition as His disciples? He has given us the Law of Messiah in His sermon on the mount (Mt 5 – 7); He has given us to understand what the Kingdom of God is like in this world (Mt 13); He has told us what to expect as the time of His coming nears (Mt 24 – 25); He has given the Holy Spirit to teach us through the Apostles’ writings in the New Testament how we are to live as believers in the truth of the gospel of the grace of God.
What is important to Jesus in order for us to be confident of our hope in His salvation for us?: The seven letters to the churches in Asia give us His counsel to equip us and to help us judge ourselves and respond appropriately according to what He praises and approves of, and of what He disapproves and gives correction. He gave the apostle John to hear and to see and to write these letters, and the whole book of Revelation, about 60 years after the Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father. They are written for all believers as to one new man – where it does not matter if we are Jewish, Gentile, male, female, Turkish, or Ethiopian. It is written to the churches – where it matters not if one is Orthodox or Roman Catholic, if Protestant, Evangelical, Baptist, or Pentecostal. The encouragements, chastisements, warnings, promises are to all in the Body of Messiah: let him/her who has an ear to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches. There is a call to listen: Even within the church there are different types of soil, of hearts, with respect to how we hear the Word of God and its interpretation.
He tells us not to be afraid. Our Lord and Savior wants each of us to be overcomers, to be victors, to be light in this world in the spiritual battles of life against the darkness of this age – victors over the devil, over this world, over our own selves. (Eph 6:12; 1Jn 2:15-16) He wants us to be wise virgins, who are prepared and glad when He comes. (Mt 25:1-13) We overcome by our faith in Jesus, who has won the victory for us on the cross, where He died and shed His blood to atone for our sins! The Holy Spirit gives us the power by the grace and the love of God to endure to the end in the faith!
All of these seven churches – these lampstands shining for the glory of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ — were located in the region of today’s Turkey on the Asian side. That light now is very dim, but not completely quenched. (Is 42:3; Mt 12:20) Turkey is now an Islamic country – spiritually very dark — and for 400 years ruled over Palestine/Israel. These churches were local city-wide congregations, and are also representative of the church-at-large, giving relevancy to these letters throughout the last 2000 years, and they also bring us right through the last 7 years of this age — Daniel’s 70th week (Dan 9:24-27) — leading up to the Lord’s return. All Scripture is written for us living at the end of the age; these letters are also prophetic in that they take us to the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of His saints ruling with Him in His kingdom over Israel and the nations. (1Cor 10:11; Rev 2:25-28)
The Book of Revelation is unique in that it is the only one in the Bible which offers a blessing to those who read and hear and keep that which is written therein. (1:3) It is a book which Yeshua Himself gave to be written, rather than inspired by the Holy Spirit. (1:1) It also ends with a curse for anyone who would add to or take away from what is written in it. (22:18-19) If we believe what the Bible says about the beginning of all things in Genesis, we will be more inclined to believe what God says about the end.
The book is the revelation of Jesus Christ: He is now in Heaven hidden from the world, but the plan of God is to send Him back at the appointed time, and every eye will see Him, including His people Israel. (Rev 1:7; Jn 16:10; Zec 12:10-11) The book opens with this hope of the return of the Everlasting God to take up His throne on the Earth. He is not only the Head of the Church, but He is ruler over the kings of the Earth. (1:4, 12-20) He has died and risen, and lives forevermore! There was no one before Him; there will be no one after Him: He is the first and the last.
Jesus is the uncreated Light, who shines like the sun when He is seen in glory, as on the Mount of Tranfiguration, or when appearing to Saul on his way to Damascus. (Gen 1:3-5; Mt 17:2; Acts 22:6-11) Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it/Him. (Jn 1:5)
Jesus is the Light of the world, and has called both Israel and believers in Him to be the light in the world, that others would see and know who the true God and Savior is. (Is 43:10-12; Mt 5:14-16) Both Israel and Christians have fallen short (Rom 5:21-26), but Jesus is here presented as the faithful and true witness: He is the true Israel and Man of God, the Prophet who perfectly speaks and bears true witness to YHVH God. The ninth commandment is “Do not bear false witness”, and this we have all been guilty of too often. Yet Jesus’ witness is true, both of the Father and of Himself. (Jn 8:12-20) He is the Light of the world, and those who follow Him shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. In Christ, we are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of night or of darkness. So let us not sleep as others, but watch and be sober. (1Thes 5:5-6)
This is what we want for ourselves, and this is the instruction we want to receive from this study of the Lord’s letters to the churches. Yeshua is seen by the apostle John as being in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, with seven stars in His right hand. John, the apostle that knew that Jesus loved him, fell down as dead when he saw the Lord in the light of His glory. And the Savior told him not be afraid: our Judge is also our Savior and Bridegroom. We should honor Him with holy fear, as true witnesses of who He is.
The Menorah was the light within the Holy Place in the Tabernacle and the Temple, both in the desert and also in Jerusalem. Only priests had access to it, and were to keep it lit at all times. Jesus says that the seven golden menorahs are the seven churches, and the stars (heavenly lights) that He holds in His right hand are the angels/messengers – whether divine or human (Mal 2:7) – of the seven churches. The letters are addressed to the churches through their messengers.
2Pe 1:19-21 We also have a more sure Word of prophecy, to which you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the Daystar arises in your hearts, (20) knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture came into being of its own private interpretation. (21) For prophecy was not borne at any time by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke being borne along by the Holy Spirit.
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, January 17, 2016.