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An Argument of the Book of Revelation (part 2)

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I. THE THINGS WHICH YOU HAVE SEEN--THE CHRIST (1:1-20)1

A. Prologue:2 1:1-8

1. Superscription: This work is the revelation from Jesus Christ which God gave to Him and which He made known through an angel to John concerning what must soon take place and it will bring blessing upon those who read, hear, and keep it 1:1-3

a. From God: This is the revelation from Jesus Christ which God gave to Him to show his servants to show his servants what soon must take place 1:1a

b. To John: God made this revelation known by sending his angel to his servant John who bore witness to the testimony of concerning all that he saw about the Lord Jesus Christ 1:1b-2

c. Blessing: The writer proclaims blessing upon all who read aloud the words of the prophecy and who hear and keep what is written therein because the time is near 1:3

2. Salutation: 1:4-8

a. Audience: John writes to the seven churches that are in Asia 1:4a

b. Prayer: John prays that his readers might receive grace and peace from the triune God (Father--Him who is, who was, who is to come, Spirit--from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from the Son--Jesus Christ the faithful witness, heir of the dead (first born) and ruler of kings on earth) 1:4b-5

B. The Vision of Christ:3 1:9-20

1. The Occasion of the Vision: 1:9-11

2. What John Observed: 1:12-16

3. The Outcome of the Vision: 1:17-20

II. THE THINGS WHICH ARE--THE CHURCHES:4 (2:1--3:22)

A. Ephesus: 2:1-7        

1. Address/Greeting: “To the angel of the church in Ephesus5 2:1a

2. A Descriptive Title of the Lord: “The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands”6This image from 1:12-13 pictures Christ who in loving authority keeps the Ephesians safe in their cosmopolitan world of complex dilemma, confusion, and pressure. 2:1b

3. A Commendation and Criticism:

a. A Commendation: They have withstood false teachers; they are orthodox7 2:2-3

b. A Criticism: The Ephesians have left their “first love”8 2:4

c. A Warning/Exhortation 2:5

1) Exhortation: When the church is told to “remember from where you have fallen” and to “do the deeds you did at first” there is a sense of movement from one state to another 2:5a

a) The Movement of the City:9

(1) The city moved by Croesus, king of Lydia, from a location near the harbor to a new cite closer to the temple in the 6th century BC

(2) The city was then moved 300 years later by Lysimachus, king of Thrace, back to a site near the harbor

(3) Perhaps now with the silting of the harbor there was a chance that the city was going to move again toward being a temple-centered state again

b) The Movement of the Church:

(1) The church has moved from its effective love of one another to its proclamation of hardened orthodoxy

(2) If the church did not repent and love others again it may loose its battle with the people and see the city move back to the site beside the pagan temple

2) Warning: Unless they repent, the Lord will come and remove their lampstand10 2:5b

4. Commendation: Even though the Ephesians are not loving they do share God’s heart in that they hate the Nicolations just as He does 2:6

5. A Promise: 2:7

a. Audience: The promise is given to the one who desires to hear the warning from the Lord and overcomes 2:7a

b. Promise: To the one who overcomes God will grant to eat of the tree of life in the Paradise of God 2:7b

B. Smyrna: 2:8-11

C. Pergamum 2:12-17

D. Thyatira 2:18-29

E. Sardis 3:1-6

F. Philadelphia 3:7-13

G. Laodicea 3:4-22

III. THE THINGS WHICH SHALL BE HEREAFTER--THE CONSUMMATION: 4:1--22:5

A. The Prologue--The Heavenly Court

B. The Program During the Tribulation: 6:1--19:21

1. The Seven Seals:11 6:1--8:1

2. The Seven Trumpets:12 8:2--11:19

3. Seven Historical, Explanatory Prophecies 12:1--14:20

4. The Seven Bowls 15:1--16:21

5. An Explanation of the Institution During the Tribulation: 17:1--19:5

6. The Intervention of Christ: 19:6-21

C. The Program After the Tribulation: 20:1--22:5

IV. THE POSTLUDE--COMFORT CAUTION, AND CONCLUSION 22:6-21


1 The significance of this portion of the book is that it sets the mood for the rest of the work. The revelation about to be given is not from John but from the triune God. Therefore it is authoritative. The audience for whom it has special value is the Church (which will be greatly emphasized in chapters 2--3). The Lord who is going to be so involved in judgments is demonstrating Himself to be intimately involved with the churches and this gives comfort to the Church. As will often be the case, a view of who God is will precede His acts of judgment to bolster the confidence of His followers. His character is so magnificent (1:14-16) that it produces worship by the observer (1:17a), yet to the one who worships Him, He gives comfort (1:17b-18). Also a key to endurance by the Church is a proper view of who Christ is. Therefore the book begins with such a vision.

2 The prologue of chapter one is programmatic in that the descriptions of Jesus become characteristics which He wishes to emphasize in each church. Notice the “seven stars” in 1:16,20 and compare this with 2:1,8,12,18; 3:7,14. Notice “the first and the last” in 1:17-18 and compare with 2:8 et cetera (cf. also, 1:15 with 2:18).

As Hemer writes, “John, I believe, saw in Christ the one who alone was qualified to answer the particular needs of the churches, and he saw in the heavenly city of REv. 20 - 22 God’s final answer to their troubles amid the imperfections of the world’s existing cities” (Unto the Angels of the Churches” Buried History 10:4 (1974):11).

3 Jesus stands as Judge in the midst of the Churches. Jesus is in the midst of the churches (1:13, cf. 1:20). Jesus holds the leaders (ἀγγελος) of the seven churches in his hand of honor (right hand) as those who are to give out light like stars (1:16;20). He is like a “son of man”(this has reference to Daniel 7:13-14 where Messiah will come in judgment over the earth with eternal dominion). He is clothed in a rob as a Judge (cf. Ex. 28:2) in 1:13. His white head/hair, eyes like fire, and feet like burnished bronze are like Daniel’s “Ancient of Days” who comes as Judge (Dan. 7:9-14) in 1:14-15. His thundering voice is that of the Son of God and it reveals the majesty and power before which human authority must bow (1:15). Therefore, he will rule as Judge over all of the earth. He will bring devastating judgment with his word which will penetrate like a powerful sword (ῥομφαία) in His glory as God (shining face) in 1:16. And He will bring salvation for the redeemed in the midst of judgment in 1:17-18.

4 The literary arrangement of the messages to the Seven Churches is as follows:(1) An Address of Greeting, (2) A Descriptive Title of the Lord, (3) A Commendation, (4) A Criticism, Complaint, or Condemnation, (5) A Warning or Threat, (6) An Exhortation, (7) A Promise.

This was probably not a panorama of church history (e.g., Thyatira did not represent the Middle Ages, and Sardis did not picture the Reformation). How would this have been meaningful to the first century readers? Everything is expressed in such an historical setting that one can hardly comprehend what is being said apart from a historical approach to the churches. As Hemer writes, “The seven letters must be seen in their original setting. We must try to find what they meant to their original readers.” Later he writes, “The church partook of the character of its city and its works may be judged as a response to that environment”, and again, “A man’s mind was formed by the character and past of his city in a way to which the modern would offers no parallel” (“Unto the Angels of the Churches” Buried History 10:4 (1974):11,16).

Rather, these messages unfold specific historical issues for the churches which need to be corrected. Churches today may have similar kinds of doctrinal and practical problems which correlate by analogy. Hemer writes, “Their message is also universal. Their lessons are applicable to churches and individuals of any age, for the realities of human nature to which they speak do not change” (“Unto the Angels of the Churches” Buried History 10:4 (1974):13.

The location of the seven churches is as follows: They were in sequence along a circular trade-route and were the natural centers of communication for all the inner districts of Asia over which John was probably responsible (See Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, pp. 171-196; Hemer, “Unto the Angels of the Churches” Buried History 10:4 (1974):12). Going north in Asia Minor (or Mysia) one would go from Ephesus to Smyrna and Pergamum, and then return south through Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and then Laodicea.

5 Ephesus was known for three things: (1) It was a great seaport; but its harbor began to fill up with silt by the second century BC; now it is only a swamp five miles from the modern coastline, (2) It was a center of fertility goddesses--especially the Greek Artemis (Roman Diana), (3) It was a center for Christian evangelism of all of Asia (Acts 19)

6 λυχνιῶν

7 The False Apostles were probably Jewish or even antinomians who advocated “permissive society” perhaps especially in view of the emperor worship of Domitian. Ephesus had a temple of the imperial cult with a statue of Domitian more than four times life size. Perhaps the false apostles were finding ways for Christians to worship the emperor and Diana

8 This may refer to their love of God but this may well refer to their love for one another (Ephesians 1:15 reads, “For this reason I too having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints”). The latter seems to have been “the” problem in the book of Ephesians--maintaining the unity which God had provided for them through loving one another (4--6). Although they were orthodox they did not love. As Hemer writes, “The condemnation of error may have led them into a hard, factious spirit which elevated the boast of orthodoxy above love of the sinner” (Hemer, “Unto the Angels of the Churches” Buried History 10:4 (1974):20).

9 Hemer, “Unto the Angels of the Churches” Buried History 10:4 (1974):14.

10 The church will either become ineffective, or non-existent. Some times God’s does this to a church. Sometimes churches are supposed to die because of their own evil.

11 I hold to a telescopic view: the seventh seal introduces the seven trumpets, the seventh trumpet introduces the seven bowels. Otherwise there is no seventh seal or trumpet, and there is a seventh bowl. Before the seventh seal there is an historical interlude.

12 Before the seventh trumpet there is an historical interlude.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines