Peters 1 Cameron Peters Ben Olson New Testament Survey 27 Apr 2017 A Consideration of the Seven Churches of Revelation The Revelation to John is a book that is often misinterpreted and allegorized. This can be somewhat understood for the majority of the book, with its apocalyptic style, symbolism and im- agery, but the first three chapters, the second and third in particular, should not be as difficult. They are in clear message form, if a somewhat brief form, with an initial address and a content specific to each recipient. As such they should be interpreted much like the epistles in the New Testament. There is however an idea that adds more significance to the letters: many believe that each of the seven churches “represent the chronological development of Church history viewed spiritually” (Walvoord 52). That is, each church, with its commendation and/or rebuke, exhorta- tion and/or warning, is a representation of the spiritual state of the Church in a specific age of Church history; Ephesus being the Apostolic Age, Smyrna the time between the apostolic age and Constantine, Pergamum when Constantine legalized Christianity, Thyatira the Middle Ages, Sardis the Reformation period, Philadelphia the modern missionary period, and Laodicea the modern era (Ryrie). There are certainly striking resemblances between the progression of the churches’ characteristics and the unfolding of Church history. However, as nothing in the text it- self explicitly claims a prophetic nature to the church messages, when interpreting the first three chapters, this idea, while not unbiblical, should be a secondary consideration to the epistolary na- ture of the writing. What follows is a brief summary of each of the Lord’s messages explored in the context of the church to which it was sent, and its implications for churches today. The first letter Jesus instructs John to write to the “angel 1 of the church in Ephesus.” Eph- esus was the greatest city in the Province of Asia. The Roman Governor was stationed there, and it was self-governed. One scholar described it thus: Wealthy, prosperous, and magnificent…a meeting place of eastern religions and Greek culture, and famous on many grounds in heathen authority, it was most famous of all for the celebrated temple of Diana, one of the seven wonders of the world. (Trench 74) 1 the Koine Greek word, angelos , translates to “angel” or “messenger”. “Messenger” seems to be the more sensible understanding here.
Peters 2 The temple of Diana was certainly the most famous feature of the city. Diana, Artemis in Greek, was a goddess of fertility: “thousands of priests and priestesses were involved in her service,” many being dedicated to “cult prostitution” (Johnson 612). The temple also served as a bank for merchants and “an asylum for fleeing criminals” (612).
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