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Letter to the Seven Churches

The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation Chapter One), which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Seven Churches

John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.  To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Every eye will see Him

Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the island that is called Patmos for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”  Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.

Do not be afraid

And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire. His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters. He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. 

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death. Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this. The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.

Angels are God’s messengers

Henry says – This first chapter is a general preface to the whole book of Revelation and contains the revelation of Jesus Christ. As is the whole Bible for all revelation comes through Christ and all centres in Him. It is a revelation which God gave unto Christ. Though Christ is Himself God, and as such has light and life in Himself, yet, as He sustains the office of Mediator between God and man, He receives His instructions from the Father. It is to Him that we owe the knowledge we have of what we are to expect from God and what He expects from us. This revelation Christ sent and signified by His angel. Observe here the admirable order of divine revelation. God gave it to Christ, and Christ employed an angel to communicate it to the churches.

The angels are God’s messengers.  They are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation. They are Christ’s servants and subject to Him. The angels signified it to the apostle John. As the angels are the messengers of Christ, the ministers are the messengers of the churches.  John was the apostle chosen for this service. Some think he was the only one surviving, the rest having sealed their testimony with their blood. This was to be the last book of divine revelation; and therefore notified to the church by the last of the apostles. John was the beloved disciple.

Blessing to those who read

These future events are shown in which would best answer God’s wise and holy purposes. They are foretold dimly, to produce in us a reverence for the scripture, and to engage our attention and excite us. John bore record of the Word of God and of the testimony of Jesus. He was an eye-witness, and he concealed nothing that he saw.

Blessing is pronounced to all who either read or hear the words of the book. This blessing was designed to encourage us to study this book, despite the obscurity of many things in it.  It will repay the labour of the careful and attentive reader. To enjoy the oracles of God is a blessed privilege. It is a privilege not only to read the scriptures ourselves, but to hear them read by others, who are qualified to give us the sense of what they read and to lead us into an understanding of them.

It is not sufficient that we read and hear the scriptures, but we must keep the things that are written.  We must keep them in our memories, in our minds, in our affections, and in practice, and we shall be blessed in the deed. The nearer we come to the fulfillment of the scriptures, the greater regard we should give to them. The time is at hand, and we should be so much the more attentive as we see the day approaching.

Where grace goes, peace will follow

Divine blessing is pronounced more especially and particularly to the seven Asian churches which are named in Rev. 1:11.  Distinct messages sent to each of them respectively in the chapters following.

1. Upon the faithful in these churches He pronounces blessing: Grace and peace, holiness and comfort. Grace, that is, the good-will of God towards us and His good work in us; and peace, that is, the sweet evidence and assurance of this grace. There can be no true peace where there is not true grace.  Where grace goes in front, peace will follow.

2. Paul blesses them in the name of the Father: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is described as the Jehovah who is, and who was, and who is to come, eternal, unchangeable.  The same to the Old-Testament church which was, and to the New-Testament church which is, and who will be the same to the church triumphant which is to come.

He will raise us up

Rev. 1:5. Christ here is described as the faithful witness.  He was from eternity a witness to all the counsels of God (John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten]Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him), Christ cannot be deceived and cannot deceive us.  He is the first-born from the dead, the only one who raised Himself by his own power.  We too by the same power will be raised up from our graves to everlasting honour.

He is the prince of the kings of the earth, from Him they have their authority, by Him their power is limited and their wrath restrained.  By Him their counsels are over-ruled, and to Him they are accountable. This is good news to the church, and it is good evidence of the Godhead of Christ, who is King of kings and Lord of lords.

He has loved His church and, in pursuance of that everlasting love, He has, First, Washed us from their sins in His own blood. Sins leave a stain upon the soul, a stain of guilt and of pollution. Nothing can fetch out this stain but the blood of Christ. He was willing to shed His own blood, to purchase pardon and purity for us. Secondly, He has made us kings and priests to God and His Father. Having justified and sanctified us, He makes us kings to His Father with His approval, and for His glory. As kings, they govern their own spirits, conquer Satan, have power and prevalence with God in prayer, and shall judge the world.

Those who honour Him, He will honour

He has made us priests, given us access to God, enabled us to enter into the holiest and to offer spiritual and acceptable sacrifices.  For these high honours and favours they are bound to ascribe to Him dominion and glory for ever.  He will be the Judge of the world: Behold, He cometh, and every eye shall see HimRev. 1:7. This book, the Revelation, begins and ends with a prediction of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We should set ourselves to meditate frequently upon the second coming of Christ and keep it in the eye of our faith and expectation. John speaks as if he saw that day: “Behold, he cometh, as sure as if you beheld him with your eyes, He cometh with clouds, which are His chariot and pavilion. Every eye shall see him, the eye of His people, the eye of His enemies, every eye, yours and mine.”

He shall come, to the terror of those who have pierced Him and have not repented.  In terror to all who have wounded and crucified Him afresh by their apostasy from Him.  It will be to the astonishment of the pagan world. For He comes to take vengeance on those who do not know God, as well as on those that do not obey the gospel of Christ.  Those who honour Him He will honour; but those who despise Him shall be lightly esteemed.

A cause worth suffering for

For asserting his God-given kingly power against all who would usurp it, John was a sufferer for Christ’s cause.  Under his confinement on the Island of Patmos it was the apostle’s comfort that he did not suffer as an evil-doer, but that it was for the testimony of Jesus, for bearing witness to Christ as the Immanuel, the Saviour. This was a cause worth suffering for; and the Spirit of glory and of God rested upon this persecuted apostle.

When John had this vision it was the Lord’s day, the day which Christ had separated and set apart for Himself. Surely this can be no other than the Sabbath to be observed in remembrance of Christ. Let us who call him our Lord honour Him on His own day. At that time Paul was in a serious, heavenly, spiritual frame, under the blessed gracious influences of the Spirit of God. God usually prepares the souls of His people for uncommon manifestations of Himself, by the quickening sanctifying influences of His good Spirit. Those who would enjoy communion with God on the Lord’s day must endeavour to detract their thoughts and affections from flesh and fleshly things and be wholly taken up with things of a spiritual nature.

He heard a voice

The apostle then gives an account of what he heard. An alarm was given as with the sound of a trumpet, and then he heard a voice, the voice of Christ.  He commanded the apostle to write the things that were now to be revealed and to send it immediately to the seven Asian churches. Our Lord Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, gave the apostle notice of His glorious appearance, as with the sound of a trumpet.

John turned to see the voice, whose it was and from where it came and then a wonderful scene of vision opened itself to him.  He saw a representation of the church under the emblem of seven golden candlesticks, as it is explained in the Rev. 1:20. The churches are compared to candlesticks, because they hold forth the light of the gospel. The churches are not candles: Christ only is our light, and His gospel our lamp.  But they receive their light from Christ and the gospel and hold it out to others. They are golden candlesticks, for they should be precious and pure, comparable to fine gold.  Our light should so shine before men as to engage others to give glory to God.

He fills us with light

He saw a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the golden candlesticks, for He has promised to be with His churches always to the end of the world.  Christ fills them with light, and life, and love, for He is the very soul of the church.

Christ was clothed with a garment down to the foot, a princely and priestly robe, denoting righteousness and honour.  There was a golden girdle, the breast-plate of the high priest, upon Him on which the names of His people are engraved.  He was girded to do all the work of a Redeemer. His head and hairs were white like wool or snow. He was the Ancient of days and His head was indeed a crown of glory.  

His eyes were as a flame of fire, piercing and penetrating into the very hearts and minds of men, scattering terrors among his adversaries.  With His feet that were like unto fine burning brass, He trod His enemies to powder. His voice was as the sound of many waters, of many rivers falling in together. He can and will make Himself heard to those who are afar off as well as to those who are near.

His gospel is a powerful and mighty stream, fed by the upper springs of infinite wisdom and knowledge. In his right hand He had seven stars, which are the ministers of the seven churches. They are under His direction and are secured and preserved by Him. Out of His mouth went a two-edged sword, His Word, which both wounds and heals. It strikes at sin on the right hand and on the left. His countenance was as the sun shining, its strength too bright and dazzling for mortal eyes to behold.

Fear not

At His appearance John fell at the feet of Christ as dead. He was overpowered with the greatness of the lustre and glory in which Christ appeared. The Lord Jesus laid His hand upon himRev. 1:17. He raised him up. He did not plead against him with His great power, but He put strength into him and spoke kind words to him. Words of comfort and encouragement: Fear not. He commanded away the slavish fears of his disciple. He gave words of instruction, telling him who He was.  

And here He acquaints him, First, with His divine nature: The first and the last. Secondly, With His former sufferings: I was dead; the very same One that His disciples saw upon the cross dying for the sins of men. Thirdly, With His resurrection and life: “I live, and am alive for evermore, have conquered death and opened the grave, and am partaker of an endless life.” Fourthly, With His office and authority: I have the keys of hell and of death. Over the invisible world He is the sovereign dominion, opening and none can shut, shutting so that none can open. 

He opens the gates of death when He pleases and the gates of the eternal world, of happiness or misery.  As the Judge of all, He sentences and there lies no appeal. Fifthly, With His will and pleasure: Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and which shall be hereafter. Sixthly, With the meaning of the seven stars, that they are the ministers of the churches; and of the seven candlesticks, that they are the seven churches, to whom Christ would now send by him particular and proper messages.

Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary

In summary

  • 1. To those who read and seek to understand the book of Revelation, therein follows a great blessing.
  • 2. Know that He has loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.
  • 3. Know that He has made us kings and priests.
  • 4. As kings we govern our own spirits, conquer Satan, have power and prevalence with God in prayer and shall judge the world.
  • 5. Jesus is soon to come with clouds and every eye will see Him.
  • 6. Jesus is the only mediator between God and man.
  • 7. Angels are God’s messengers and are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation.
  • 8. The obscurity of the Book of Revelation is to engage our attention and excite us.
  • 9. We must keep in our minds and affections the things we read in the Word.
  • 10. When we are faithful God pronounces grace, peace, holiness and comfort to us.
  • 11. Know that Christ by His power, will raise us who believe, up from the graves to everlasting honour.
  • 12.  Know that Christ is over all the kings of the earth, by Him their power is limited and their wrath restrained.
  • 13. As priests we have access to enter the holiest. 
  • 14. For these privileges we are to ascribe to Him all dominion and power and glory forever.
  • 15. We should set ourselves to meditate frequently on the second coming of Christ.
  • 16. Know that He will honour us for honouring Him.
  • 17. Know that if we should have to suffer for the cause of Christ it is a cause worth suffering for.
  • 18. Seek to honour Christ on the Lord’s day each week, a day in which we set all aside to be wholly taken up with things of a spiritual nature.
  • 19. We are like candlesticks. We receive our light from Christ and we hold it out to others.  He fills us with light, life and love.
  • 20. We are to command every slavish fear away from our lives.
Yesterday, Today and Forever

The joy of living in the present
The thrill of carrying Your sword
The peace and joy you’ve sent
I praise and thank You Lord.
 
For You forgave my part
When You sent down You Son
I can go forward, at last
And do what He has done.
 
No worry about what lies ahead
No problems, no doubt or fear
I can depend on You instead
My mind now fresh and clear.
 
I trust in Your unfailing hand
To lead me, to be my guide
So I can learn to understand
Your Word, deep down inside.
 
Each day a new dimension
Of Your unceasing love
Each thought a new extension
Of Your Kingdom life above.
 
For yesterday, today and forever
You’re always the same to me
One day I know I shall have
The eyes for the glory You see.
 
 By the late Andrew Feakin
[passed away 16th March 2019]

Prayer:  Father, thank You for Your Word, thank You for Your revelation.  Breathe Your life into us, renew our understanding of Your truths.  Make us to understand who we truly are in You. Help us to be fearless warriors for You.  For Your glory.  Amen.

Letter to the Seven Churches

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