“Greetings and doxology
To the seven churches in the province of Asia:
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits[a] before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.”
- Revelation 1:5 “Or the sevenfold Spirit” (Rev 1:4-6)
Each week a group of faithful men gather to study The Word of God under the guidance of Pastor Michael. This is my summation of our 10/6/10 study session. This week we begin study of Revelation 1:4-6.
The Book of Revelation is actually a letter, written in apocalyptic style, to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia (on today’s maps, Asia Minor). These were not the only churches in this region, not even all the major ones. John’s letter was to be circulated among the churches and these were located at major distribution centers, roughly situated in a circle, on the Roman postal system. (Roman communication worked somewhat like the American Pony Express.) The Romans were very proficient in building roads for rapid communication and trade throughout the Roman Empire. Many of these same routes and even some of the original Roman paved roads are still in use today.
The seven churches are named in Revelation 1:11. They are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Since they were located at postal/communication/trade centers, John knew that the message he addressed to these seven churches would be distributed to other churches throughout Asia Minor. So, while the letter is addressed to only seven congregations, its content is intended for all Christians in Asia Minor and beyond, including us today.
The Number 7
The number seven is a major theme/symbol in Revelation. John uses seven 54 times in Revelation.
Seven is a symbol for completeness or wholeness to the Jews. The importance comes for Genesis 1 where God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. In the creation story, God’s creation work was completed and He proclaimed it to be “good.”
Greetings and Doxology (Blessing)
As was common in letters of the time, John’s letter begins with a greeting and blessing.
Rather than in a closing as is common today, the writer is identified at the very beginning of the letter. The writer (Jesus was actually the author of this letter) identifies himself as “John.” Whether this was John the Apostle or another John is the subject of another blog.
“Grace and peace (shalom) to you…” (Rev 1:4)
Grace is, of course, God’s grace as given in the covenant of the New Testamant.
Peace, shalom in Hebrew is not just the absence of conflict, is the presence of wholeness. Every part of one’s being is whole and there is the presence of positive things (including oneness with God) when we experience “shalom.”
“…from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come…” (Rev. 1:4)
In Exodus 3:14, when Moses (Moshe) asks what to tell the people about who sent him, God answers “I am Who I am.” (or “I will be Who I will be.”)
In Hebrew, verbs are very important. They run from the very passive to the very powerful. In Exodus, the form of the verb is the most powerful. In Hebrews 13:8, Jesus is described as being the “…same yesterday, today and forever…” God and Jesus are One God. God is timeless and all-powerful. No other God can compare to Him. No other God is superior to Him.
“…and from the seven spirits…” (“or from the sevenfold Spirit”) (Rev 1:4)
SEVEN spirits? What about One, God the Spirit?
Biblical scholars give two possible explanations as to that is meant here.
One is that this is a reference to the seven Archangels mentioned in the Apocryphral Books of 1 Enoch and Tobit. These angels held the highest status among the Heavenly Host of Angles. The were frequently sent by God as messengers to the humans on earth. Also, each was designated as a “protector” for various nations.
Gabriel and Michael (the Protector of the Nation of Israel) are mentioned by name in the New Testament.
Angels, like humans, are God-created creatures. They, like humans, are susceptible to falling from grace (sinning).
In God’s great plan, humans are His crowning glory, His favorite living creatures. Jesus did not become incarnate, suffer on the Cross and rise again to save angels, but humans. So, when we think about it, when we die, we would not even want to become angels in heaven. That would be a step down in the hierarchy! Instead, we will rise again as humans, God’s beloved children.
The other explanation is that this refers to God the Spirit (who is only One).
In Hebrews 2:4 it is written “…and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.”
In Romans and 1 Corinthians Paul discussed the Spiritual Gifts given to people. None of us possess all of them, but all who received the Gift of the Spirit receive at least one. These are different from our “natural talents.”
In the same way, the Holy Spirit brings different gifts to different churches or congregations. No single congregation, sect or denomination can do everything. In fact, we should not even try.
In Romans 12, Paul describes how the human body has many members (parts), each with its own individual purpose or function. Yet for the entire body to live, all these parts must work together.
The Body of Christ (universal church) is composed of many different parts with each part having unique contributions that it can make to doing God’s work. It is when we work in (universal) community and cooperation that we can do the complete work.
“When we have it all together, we have it all!”: Pastor Michael
Jesus’ longest prayer is found in John 15. In it, He prays for the unity of His followers.
Within the universal church, we have many different denominations. Far too often, we fight among ourselves over what amounts to style rather than basic substance. If we step back and examine the foundations of Christianity we find the same basic TRUTHS.
- God is the Creator
- The Incarnation
- The Holy Trinity
- Death on the Cross
- The Resurrection
The central belief in these things is what makes Christianity (not Lutheranism, Methodism, Presbyterianism, etc.) different from other religious beliefs such as Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam. But when we, as Christians, bring the stylistic differences to the forefront, we give fodder to those who say all religions are basically the same.
“… and from Jesus Christ…” (Rev 1:5)
This completes that the blessing is from the Holy Trinity.
So, here we have a letter from John, addressed specifically to the seven churches but intended for all Christians, that contains the blessing of grace and peace (shalom) from the Holy Trinity.
We barely got into discussing Jesus as the “faithful witness, so I’ll save that for the next week’s study notes.
My thanks to Pastor Michael and the members of the Men on the Grow study group.
This blog is part of an ongoing series based on my notes from a weekly Bible Study. For all of the blogs in this study, see: A Study of the Book of Revelation: Index of Blogs
Alive in the Word