seven letters  introduction

Imagine if Jesus wrote a personal letter to your church. What do you think He would say in His letter? Would He find things to praise and compliment or would He talk about stuff that needed to change? Would He offer encouragement to keep going or would He give a strong warning about the direction that the church was headed? Would He write about a combination of these things or perhaps something else? What would do you think Jesus would say in a letter to your church?

Well, believe it or not, Jesus did do such a thing and you can read about it in the book of Revelation. Now for some people, the "Book of Revelation" immediately conjures up a lot of horror-movie images about future prophecies and the end of the world. However, while the book of Revelation does contain many things that are challenging and unusual, you shouldn't be discouraged from reading it because it also contains this promise...

 "God blesses the one who reads this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to it and obey what it says. For the time is near when these things will happen" (Revelation 1:3 NLT).

Even though there may be things in the book of Revelation that are difficult to understand, you should remember that difficult is not the same as impossible. Besides, it certainly wouldn't be keeping with God's character to give you a book in the Bible that no one could ever possibly understand, right? It's been said that good things rarely come easily and understanding the book of Revelation is just like many other good things that are worth having- you have to be willing to put in some work to be successful in understanding it. 

Nevertheless, the good news is that this study is going to stay within a section of Revelation that's a lot easier to understand and apply than some other portions of the book. That section would consist of Revelation chapters two and three.

You see, Revelation chapters two and three are made up entirely of letters that were given by Jesus to seven different churches that were active during the time when the book of Revelation was originally written. These letters contain personal messages to each of these seven churches but they also contain something else- they contain important truths that people from every century can apply, including Christians of our own time.

According to the book itself, the human author of Revelation is a man named John who identifies himself by name three different times (chapter one, verse four [1:4], chapter one, verse nine [1:9], and chapter twenty-two, verse eight [22:8]). This writer has usually been identified as John the Apostle, the same man who wrote the Gospel of that name along with the other Biblical books of 1st, 2nd & 3rd John. Most scholar-types believe that the book of Revelation was written between 90 and 100 AD which means that John was probably around 90 years old when it was written. 

Some Bibles refer to this book as the "Revelation of John" but according to chapter one, verse one, it's really more accurate to say that this book is the Revelation of Jesus that was given to John. The first three verses of the book explain it like this...

"This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him concerning the events that will happen soon. An angel was sent to God's servant John so that John could share the revelation with God's other servants. John faithfully reported the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ – everything he saw" (Revelation 1:1-2 NLT).

The word "revelation" used above is important in helping us understand one of the purposes behind this book. You see, the word for "revelation" in the original language means "an unveiling." In the book of Revelation, God "removes the veil" from some things that we could not have known unless He showed them to us. 

A little later in the first chapter of Revelation, John receives these instructions...

"Write down what you see, and send it to the seven churches: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea" (Revelation 1:11 NLT).

This refers (at least in part) to the seven letters that we'll get to see for ourselves in the following two chapters. But before we get into looking at the actual letters, let's check out how each letter is set up. 

First, each of the seven letters starts out just like we might start a letter today. Each letter begins with a "To:" that is addressed to the angel of each particular church and is then followed by a "From:" that gives a self-description of the Person who sent it. Here's an example...

"Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands..." (Revelation 2:1 NLT).

Now why would a letter like this be addressed "...to the angel of the church..."? Well, while the term angel is often used to refer to a supernatural being today, the word in the original language simply means messenger. While Jesus' use of this word has been a source of controversy between some pretty smart people over the centuries, the easiest way to understand this reference is to say that Jesus is probably speaking to the leadership of each church in the sense that every church leader is (or should be) a messenger for God. 

Following each introduction is a personal message to each church from Jesus Himself. In reading these letters, you'll find that Jesus always gets right to the point without any "sugar-coating" or messing around. He tells each church exactly the way it is. Jesus talks about the situation of each church and then gives a message of praise and approval if the church deserves it. Other times, He gives a message of strong reprimand and disapproval. Sometimes He gives both. He tells each church what He wants them to do about any problems that exist and then gives a warning about what will happen if they don't. Finally Jesus ends each letter with a statement of encouragement and a promise to anyone who is victorious in living a God-honoring life.

One more thing. In each of these letters, Jesus makes the same statement over and over: "Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches" (NLT). This means that the things that Jesus is about to say in these letters are for anyone who is willing to listen and apply them- including those of us living in the 21st century.

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The Doctor is not a real doctor but he plays one on the Internet. E-Mail prescriptions are also available on an individual basis.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptural references taken from The Living Bible, 1971, Tyndale House Publishers


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