Read Revelation 1:11, Revelation 1:19-20. Jesus also spoke seven distinctive messages for the churches in Asia. What does the fact that there were more than seven churches in the province suggest, in general, about the symbolic significance of these messages for Christians?
The messages that Jesus directed John to send to the seven churches are recorded in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Their meanings apply on three levels:
Historical application. Those messages originally were sent to seven churches located in prosperous cities of first-century Asia. The Christians there faced serious challenges. Several cities set up emperor worship in their temples as a token of their loyalty to Rome. Emperor worship became compulsory. Citizens were also expected to participate in public events and pagan religious ceremonies. Because many Christians refused to participate in these practices, they faced trials and, at times, even martyrdom. Commissioned by Christ, John wrote the seven messages to help believers deal with these challenges.
Prophetic application. Revelation is a prophetic book, but only seven churches were chosen to receive these messages. This fact points to the prophetic character of the messages, as well. The spiritual conditions in the seven churches coincide with the spiritual conditions of God’s church in different historical periods. The seven messages are intended to provide, from heaven’s perspective, a panoramic survey of the spiritual state of Christianity from the first century to the end of the world.
Universal application. Just as the entire book of Revelation was sent as one letter that was to be read in every church (Rev. 1:11, Rev. 22:16), so the seven messages also contain lessons that can apply to Christians in every age. In such a way, the messages represent different types of Christians in different places and times. For instance, while the general characteristic of Christianity today is Laodicean, some Christians may identify with the characteristics of some of the other churches. The good news is that whatever our spiritual condition, God “meets fallen human beings where they are”. – Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 22.
|Suppose the Lord were to write a letter today to your local church, a letter written in the form of the messages to the seven churches. What might such a letter say about the challenges your church is facing as well as its spiritual condition?|