Sunday, 23 August 2020
saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” Revelation 1:11
As has been (and will be) seen, there are, at times, variations between source texts. This is true with this verse –
…saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.” (NKJV)
…saying, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (NASB)
One either added in something, or one dropped something out. However, and despite this, the differences will be made up elsewhere. In other words, the terms dropped in the text used for the NASB translation are included at other points in Revelation and confirm Jesus’ deity. These changes may have been accidental, but if someone intentionally added or deleted the verses, it was most probably not to hide this fact. This is because the precept of Jesus being fully God is undeniable based on countless other verses in the New Testament.
This commentary will continue to use the NKJV and its source text for analysis. With that in mind, this verse continues from the previous verse beginning with, “saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.’” The word “saying” refers to the voice like a trumpet of the previous verse.
From there, verse 8 already noted Christ as the Alpha and the Omega. To understand that, refer back to that commentary. Verse 8 then said, “the Beginning and the End.” That is now changed to, “the First and the Last.” All three dual descriptors will be used together in Revelation 22:13 –
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”
The word translated as “First” is prótos. It signifies “what comes first.” It is that which is principal, most important, etc. The word translated as “Last” is eschatos. It signifies “at the last,” “till the end,” and so on. It is the root of the word eschatology, the study of last things.
With that stated, the trumpeting voice of the Lord continues with, “and, ‘What you see, write in a book.’” In the next verse, John will turn to see a vision of the Lord. The Lord will then speak out words to the church in Chapters 2 & 3, at times using the imagery of the vision, explaining it to the churches.
John is being instructed to write out what he sees in order to confirm that the words which accompany the vision are true, because the vision itself confirms it is true. It is similar to what occurred with the prophets of old. Ezekiel 1 is a good example of this. Isaiah 6 gives a vivid description of the Lord as well. What is seen, then, is as important to the reception of the message as is what is spoken.
This is because what is seen is the fulfillment of the typology given in the Old Testament. Moses was given explicit instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and the implements which accompanied it. Hebrews 8 explains this –
“For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. 4 For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; 5 who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” Hebrews 8:3-5
A study of the tabernacle and its various implements, including the garments of the high priest, reveals Christ in every detail. To gain a fuller understanding of those details, one can go to the Superior Word YT videos or writings, and follow through the book of Exodus. What John sees, then shows us the heavenly things that the author of Hebrews refers to.
The Lord continues by saying, “and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia.” This does not mean these were the only churches in the province of Asia, but that these seven churches have been selected to receive the letter. Thus, it shows that the Lord is choosing them for His own specific purposes, and also in order to reveal certain truths which apply to each of them. They will then become a model for all churches of the church age to be evaluated against. This will reveal the positive and negative aspects of those churches in order to show what is pleasing or displeasing to the Lord.
These are Gentile-led churches in Gentile areas. Like churches today, there may have been Jewish believers at any of them, but that is incidental to the overall Gentile setting that is given. What is written by John is to be conveyed “to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
Seven in Scripture is the number of “spiritual perfection.” Knowing this, the idea of these seven churches then reflecting the state of all future churches makes sense. But within the words of the Lord to each church are warnings and promises. As these warnings and promises reflect the Lord’s purposes for all churches, it is good to understand the meaning of “seven” from the Old Testament.
It is the Hebrew word is sheva. It is derived from the verb shava – “to swear,” or “an oath.” A play on words is seen in the use of both “seven” and “oath” in these words from Genesis 21 –
“And he said, ‘You will take these seven ewe lambs from my hand, that they may be my witness that I have dug this well.’ 31 Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because the two of them swore an oath there.” Genesis 21:30, 31
With this in mind, the words of the Lord to the seven churches should be taken and applied carefully by the reader. What He says is binding, as is testified to by who He is. The description of Him, the words which issue from Him, and the presentation being given to seven churches, all are given to help us realize what is presented is a binding word.
Of these seven churches, only Ephesus and Laodicea are seen outside of Revelation. Ephesus – as a church or as a city – is noted in Acts, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians (it is the city to whom Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is written), 1 Timothy, and 2 Timothy. Laodicea is mentioned four times in the book of Colossians. The city of Thyatira is mentioned in Acts 16:14, but only in relation to it being the town of Lydia, a lady mentioned in that verse. Of these seven churches, the Pulpit Commentary notes –
“The order is not haphazard. It is precisely that which would be natural to a person writing in Patmos or travelling from Ephesus. Ephesus comes first as metropolis; then the city on the coast, Smyrna; then the inland cities in order, working round towards Ephesus again. In short, it is just the order in which St. John would visit the Churches in making an apostolic circuit as metropolitan.”
Life application: Jesus, as properly presented in the Bible, is God. To deny Jesus’ deity is explained by John in his epistles as the spirit of the antichrist. Misdirected faith is wasted faith. It will result in eternal condemnation. So, it is of paramount importance to get right who Jesus is.
Once it is understood that Jesus Christ is God, the words of Revelation can be properly evaluated. The description of Jesus, and the letters which follow, will express the heart of the Lord for His church, meaning the people in it. Let us take them to heart.
Glorious Almighty God! The doctrine of the Trinity is difficult for us to understand, but it is certainly what the Bible teaches. And so, may we accept it and hold fast to it so that our faith will be properly directed and firmly grounded in the truth. We ask this so that You will be glorified through our belief in Jesus, the Lord of Creation and the Lord of the Church. Amen.