Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Revelation 1:4-8 Greetings to the Seven Churches

KEY TEXT: Revelation 1:4-8 John to the seven churches that 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 of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." 

KEY THOT: The addressees of John's letter were the "seven churches that are in Asia", listed in verse 11: "to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamum, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea." These seven churches were located in present-day Turkey. They were not symbolic churches but real churches that were contemporaneous to John's time at the end of the first century. There is an interpretation of these seven churches (known as "historicist view") that these seven churches represented seven periods of the church history, from Jesus' first coming till His second coming. 

However, this historicist view expounded by such dispensationalist as Schofield takes only Western church history into account while ignoring the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Nestorian Church which do not fit into this schema. It has been criticised by the Orthodox writer Fr. Dimitri Cozby as an oversimplication of church history that has ignored the major branches of the church in of the East. The Nestorian Church in particular has expanded eastward from Mesopotamia to Tibet, India, Mongolia and China at its height, long before Buddism and Islam reached these countries. At its peak in the 8th century, there were more Christians in the Nestorian Church (also known as Church of the East) than Christians in the Western European Church. Western Church history has completely ignored these two main branches of Christianity because they do not fit its theological worldview.

In his salutation (v.4b-6), John summarizes in one breath the Trinitarian doctrine: "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 of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

The Trinity was described firstly as eternal: "who is and who was and who is to come". Eternity for the Trinity is not never-ending time, but above Time. Time as expressed in the flow of human history has no effect on God: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.

The Holy Spirit is described as the "seven spirits", seven being the number of perfection. The Spirit is like a mighty river flowing from the throne: it is one river with manifold streams. He can be everywhere at the same time.

Jesus Christ is described here as the Faithful Witness (He is the Truth); the Firstborn from the dead (He is the Resurrection & Life); the Ruler of all earthly kings (He is Lord of all). He freed us from our sins by his blood so that we can reign with him as kings and priests before God His Father.

This exalted Christ is revealed as the eternal Lord God who declares: "I am the Alpha and the Omega... the Almighty." 

This is the Author of Revelation, not John who is simply the secretary who wore down what he heard and saw.

Abba-Father, how awesome You are! You are the God above history and time. You are in total control of the flow of history. Amen.

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