Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Letters to Seven Churches

The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches…” (Revelation 1:20b)

The book of Revelation is written to the seven churches, and within Revelation each church receives a specific letter addressed to her (Revelation 2–3). Each letter is addressed to the “angel” of the church. The word angel simply means “messenger,” and it is hard to understand how a spirit angel would receive a letter designed to be read to a local congregation; so it is most likely that the angel of the church is the presiding elder or pastor.

In each letter, Christ starts by describing Himself. He chooses an attribute that fits the message He is sending to each church. For Ephesus, He is the lampstand-tender, and He warns them that if they don’t repent, He will take their lampstand away. His reward is fitting: to eat of the Tree of Life (Revelation 2:1–7). This makes sense when we remember that the lampstand in the tabernacle was a stylized almond tree, a blazing tree of life.

For Smyrna, Christ is the one who died and came to life again. He writes to those who will not only undergo the imprisonment of death but will also come to life again and receive a crown, as He did. Death will not keep hold on them (2:8–11).

For Pergamum, Christ has words like a sharp, double-edged sword. This Word is to cut through the heretical sacramental teachings of the Nicolaitans and Balaamites. If they won’t use the Word to deal with heresy, Christ Himself will come and do it, which would not be good for them. Those who overcome Satan’s lies will receive hidden manna. Those who are faithful to the true Word will participate in the true sacrament (2:12–17).

Finally, for Thyatira Christ has eyes like blazing fire and feet of bronze. With His eyes He searches the hearts and minds and brings judgment upon those who forsake the true bride, Jerusalem, and follow the false bride, the harlot Jezebel. Those who remain faithful and who overcome temptation will receive “bronze feet” like those of Christ, with which to trample down the wicked nations and rule them.

In each case an attribute of God is brought to bear practically upon the situation. God is not just concerned with the processes of life; He requires faithfulness in life.

There is nothing more relevant and practical than a study of the qualities of God Himself. Notice also, however, that these attributes are presented in colorful imagery, not in an abstract discourse. If we want the message to strike home to people, we should use the imagery of the Bible.