Today’s reading: Rev 2
Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 of Revelation really have to be read together. Today, we will look at a general theme running through the messages to the seven churches and tomorrow some specifics. It turns out that the messages to the seven churches are actually a review of the history of Israel and the books of the Old Testament.
Many of the references in the message to the Church at Ephesus are references from the Book of Genesis.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false. Rev 2:1-2
In the Garden of Eden, God walked among or in the midst of the Garden. Adam’s punishment after the fall is to have to labor. The devil is the evildoer whose teachings to Adam and Eve have been found to be false. This is followed by a reference to the fall:
Therefore remember from where you have fallen…. Rev 2:5.
The message ends with an even more explicit verse:
Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the garden of God. Rev 2:7
An obvious reference to the tree of life and the Garden of Eden.
The message to Smyrna and reminders of the Patriarchs.
And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life: “I know your affliction and your poverty, even though you are rich. I know the slander on the part of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Rev 2:8-9
The reference to the one favored (Jew) v. the one not favored (not Jew) are references to Issac v. Ishmael and Jacob v. Essau. The next reference is to Joseph, who was sold into slavery in Egypt but by being faithful became second only to Pharaoh:
Beware, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison so that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have affliction. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Rev 2:10
The message to Pergamum is an allusion back to the Exodus. Specifically, the reference to the Mana:
Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna…. Rev 2:17
The message to Thyatira is a reference to the kings. Specifically, the reference to Jezebel who was an evil queen and prophetess who tempted Israel away from the true God.
But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols. Rev 2:20
As an aside, if you ever have a Jehovah’s Witness knock on your door, the section contains an excellent proof of the divinity of Jesus. They deny the divinity of Jesus and use their own translation of the Bible to counter many traditional arguments. However, in Revelation and talking about Jesus it says:
Beware, I am throwing her on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve. Rev 2:22-23
And in Jerimiah, when speaking about God it says:
I the Lord test the mind and search the heart… Jerimiah 17:10
This is one of the connections showing the divinity of Jesus that the Jehovah’s Witness missed when scrubbing the scripture.
The message to Sardis recollects the prophets:
Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Rev 3:3
The prophets’ role was to call Israel to remember the covenant and their special relationship with God and to call them to repent and return to faithful observance of the covenant.
The message to Philadelphia recalls the Maccabees. Recall, that the Maccabees fought to restore the temple. The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah recalls when they were under siege and only had enough oil to light the menorah lamp for one day but it lasted eight days.
Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Rev 3:10-12
The message to Laodicea is the current generation, the coming of the Messiah. We are “in Christ” but can be thrown out;
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth. Rev 3:16
We are saved and our souls are purified by suffering. Also, this passage recalls Jesus’ miracle of healing the man born blind:
Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Rev 3:18
It is also a reference to Purgatory as described by Paul in Corinthians:
Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire. 1 Cor 3:12-15
Finally, a reference to the Eucharist:
Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. Rev 3:20
So what is the point of this review of Jewish history? In my opinion, it is an example of the theme that repeats throughout the Book of Revelation. History, including salvation history, repeats itself. There is nothing new under the sun, particularly when it comes to the failings of men and the multiple ways we can mess things up. However, God’s grace overrides and where we fall, he is faithful.
Tomorrow: Rev 2