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Revelation 1:920; 3:1422comment (0)

March 27, 2008

By James R. Strange

Related Scripture: Revelation 1:920; 3:1422

Living 3:16 — With Passion for Jesus
Revelation 1:9–20; 3:14–22

Daniel and Revelation are the only book-length examples of apocalyptic literature in the Bible. Contrary to prevalent thinking, Revelation (like Daniel) is meant as a word of hope to its readers: be patient, for God means to reward the faithful. Parts of Revelation (including the number of the beast) apparently refer to Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome (A.D. 64), whereas other parts fit better within the more widespread, but unofficial, persecution that happened during Domitian’s reign (A.D. 81–96). The author was interpreting the events of his day, and he expected his predictions to happen quite soon. Because of the highly figurative nature of his language, however, Christians in nearly every generation since the book’s writing, including ours, have found reason to apply the author’s vision of his own world to their situation.

Revelation 1:9–11
This section begins the divine revelation ("Apocalypse" means revelation). Christians traditionally have associated the author, who identifies himself as John, with the authors of the fourth Gospel and three New Testament letters. None of those writings names its author, but their attributions to John (understood to be the son of Zebedee, Jesus’ disciple) show up very early in the titles of the books. The author (hereafter John) said that he was on the island of Patmos "because of the word of God and the testimony of [or ‘to’] Jesus," which could indicate that he was imprisoned or exiled on the island because of his missionary work. As is typical in apocalyptic writings, John experienced a vision while in a trance. In the first part of the "vision," however, John heard a voice telling him to write in a scroll and send it to seven nearby churches, all of which were located in the Roman province of Asia, in the western part of present-day Turkey. Scholars infer that John wrote because the "persecution" to which he referred was most severe in this part of the world.

Revelation 1:12–20
The seven lampstands resemble lights in the Temple sanctuary (see Ex. 27:20–21; Lev. 24:2–4). "[O]ne like the Son of Man" is an allusion to Daniel 7; John was explicitly identifying the risen Christ (v. 18) with this figure. The description of the figure draws imagery from Daniel 7:9, 13; 10:6; Isaiah 49:2; and Judges 5:31. John’s reaction is typical, since most divine encounters in the Bible cause terror; the response of the Christ figure is also typical (v. 17). Verse 19 alerts us that John’s message concerns the recent past (Jesus’ death and resurrection), His present (the persecution) and the near future; John thought that "what will happen" was very near (see Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:6, 10, 12, 20).

Revelation 3:14–22
This is the final letter of the seven sent to the churches mentioned in Revelation 1:11 and the last thing pertaining to John’s present before his vision of the future. Laodicea was a wealthy city, located at the junction of two significant trade routes and within a day’s travel of nearby Colossae and Hieropolis. The accusation that the church is "neither cold nor hot" may refer to the poor quality of the water brought into the city’s nymphaeum (a monument to nymphs) by aqueduct from a spring about five miles south, but it is impossible to know for sure. In any case, the accusation probably does not refer to the church’s tepid enthusiasm but to its indecision about where their devotion lay. The opulence of the city no doubt was reflected in the church’s population, and this may have been the source of its wavering. "I need nothing" may refer to the city’s refusal of state assistance to rebuild after an earthquake in A.D. 60. The city was known for its fine black wool and eye salve, which may help explain the references to white robes (signifying purity) and eye salve in verse 18. Despite the harsh words of verse 16, in verse 19, God said that the Laodiceans should repent because of God’s love for them. The request to open the door and let God in applies to the entire church rather than to an individual.

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