The book of Revelation is notoriously difficult to understand for a number of reasons. First, it is written as a poetic work, with much imagery. This presents great difficulties because so many people try to use the entire book as a guide to a very literal interpretation of modern events. Secondly, this type of imagery, while more familiar to people of the first century is very foreign to people today; and its inclusion in the New Testament (which is so reliably straightforward in most cases) seems even more confusing that it otherwise might. Third, while there are several references to Christ’s second coming, it is important to remember that John opened the book with the statement that this revelation of Jesus Christ was given “to show to his servants the things that must soon take place.”
Addressed to seven churches in Asia (Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea), it had more than one purpose. But undeniably, one of those purposes was to give comfort to Christians in these and other places – Christians who had suffered and were still suffering great persecution because of their love for Jesus and their refusal to bow to those who would have them deny the Lord.
Contrary to what modern-day “prophets” would have you believe, these Christians were not concerned about what would happen in the middle east (or anywhere else) during the 20th and 21st centuries; and it is the height of insolence to think that half of such a book written for them would concern itself with events of our era. It is the opinion of this writer that other false prophets a century from now could easily use the same passages their peers use today to fit their own perception of world events. Don’t fall into that trap.
When you read a part of revelation that you are tempted to take literally, examine the surrounding passages, and ask yourself if that means you should take those other passages literally as well. Much error in teaching and understanding can be avoided this way.
In chapter 2, John is told what to write to four of the seven churches. He commends Ephesus for their endurance and for weeding out false teachers, but scolds them for having “abandoned the love you had at first.” This probably refers to the fact that they had lost their zeal for worship and teaching that had been strong before. He has words of comfort for those of Smyrna, while also warning that their persecution was about to become even greater.
For those at Pergamum, he has praise for holding fast, even though they are in the middle of the worst of evil. But some of their number have fallen into the teachings of the Nicolaitans, who he praised the Ephesians for holding in disdain. We know little about these Nicolaitans, other than the fact that they did not teach the truth. For the Thyatira church, he also begins with praise, but scolds them because some of their number had succumbed to the sexual immorality and false teaching of a woman named Jezebel, who represented herself as a prophetess.
Bible Reading Schedule for this month
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All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.