“Greetings to the Seven Churches!”
This Epistle opens with Christ testifying to the visions of God given to John the Apostle through an angel of what is going to happen to the Church. The purpose was not for information for John or encouragement for his captivity and isolation; rather, it was meant to be shared with the rest of the Christian community. Its purpose is to bless and encourage us so we can stand firm and grow further in our faith. What has been revealed will happen to us personally and in a future culmination. This book has meaning and application for all who read it as well as a glimpse of a hope to come.
This letter is primarily targeted to seven, actual churches in Asia Minor, which is now modern Turkey. John is proclaiming the Divine Authority, Sovereignty, and Lordship of Christ as well as the important relevance of Christ in us, so that we can have peace and anticipation in Him. Christ is Lord.
This is reality for us, both now and when He comes back for us. Even when all seems lost and hopeless, He is in command and His plan is in commission. Although it is John who pens the words of this book of Revelation and an angel delivers it, it is witnessed to as truth by Christ Himself who is faithful to us. We are exhorted to praise and worship Him Who is worthy of our praise because He has freed us from our sins and separation from God by the shedding of His own blood. He has made us a home, a kingdom, and a dwelling for eternity.
Now, the theme switches to the magnificent glory to come as we are given a glimpse of the coming of our Lord that all will see. It will be the ultimate of shock and awe. Christ is proclaimed as the All in All of all things, the Beginning and the End, the Almighty One!
Revelation has often been identified as an ominous apocalypse of chaos and catastrophe. But, this is not necessarily the point. Revelation opens with an elaborate greeting so we can more firmly connect our relationship with Christ and receive hope and encouragement. John calls us to the privilege and necessity of reading and hearing His Word (most people could not read and needed it to be read to them), because the authority is Christ Himself.
The Church was undergoing the beginnings of more severe persecution than what they initially went through in James’ and Peter’s time when the Roman Emperor Nero was blaming the Christians for the burning of Rome (which he had caused), making them the scapegoat (54-68 AD). And/or (depending on date; see previous posts on the date) at this time or a time soon to come, the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) had stepped up the persecutions. They were harsh, perhaps the worst ever endured in church history. Perhaps this letter is also preparing them for the road ahead (Rev. 1:9; 2:9-13; 13:7-10).