- After visions of the worship of God and the worthiness of Christ in the previous two chapters, we are now drawn down to see the rebellion of the earth.
- Revelation contains 3 different series of God’s judgments – the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls. – John Phillips has said:
- The seals – the world is ruined by man
- The trumpets – the world is ruined by Satan
- The bowls – the world is rescued by God (Exploring Revelation, 95)
- Chapter six contains six of the seven seals mentioned earlier in chapter 5.2. If you remember, the seals are representative of God’s judgment, thus in this chapter, we will begin to see and understand what that looks like.
- As a reminder, depending on one’s end times view, some may see these as specific future events and others may see these as general descriptions which happen throughout the course of history until the return of Christ. Regardless, many of the conclusions of these seals have large agreement among various scholars.
- The seals seem to progressively increase in intensity as the Holy Spirit’s restraint is removed from the earth.
5 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals.
- “In the right hand” – a position of prestige, importance, or honor.
- “right hand of him” – God, for the first time in Revelation is described in human-like terms.
- Scholars have debated the nature of this unnamed scroll, but this most likely a scroll of judgment when you look at it’s placement within the context of Revelation. This scroll was probably originally mentioned in Ezekiel 2.9-10
And when I looked, behold, a hand was stretched out to me, and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. And he spread it before me. And it had writing on the front and on the back, and there were written on it words of lamentation and mourning and woe.
4 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
- A simpler translation: After I had seen all these things, I dreamed again and saw that there was an opening (door) into heaven. And the person who had a voice like a trumpet spoke to me again and said, “Come up here and I will let you see the things that will happen after this.
- “After this I looked” – “Vision one of Revelation is complete; vision two (4:1–16:21)—the longest of the four—is about to begin. In vision one John saw and heard Christ on the earth. Vision two begins with John taken to heaven. As he wrote the vision down, John included what he saw and heard in heaven as well as what he saw on earth. As we will observe when we reach chapter 12, this great second vision ends with John seeing two fantastic dramas that explain the why and the how of the consummation (12:1–14:20; 15:1–16:21).” – Easley, K. H. (1998). Revelation (Vol. 12, pp. 73–74). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
A little background concerning the church at Laodicea
- A self-sufficient and commercial center, thriving in the medical and textile industries.
- Known for it’s production of wool cloth.
- About 35 years before this letter was written, the town was destroyed by earthquake, but they had enough resources within themselves to quickly rebuild.
A little background concerning the church at Philadelphia:
- not a large city, but commercially busy.
- prone to earthquake disasters.
7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.
- “the holy one” – “In the Bible “holiness” is the very essence of God, the quality that makes God what he is, different and set apart from human beings. It carries a sense of separateness from sin, of exclusiveness, of uniqueness”(Bratcher). Also a Messianic designation, meaning God’s servant or one who does God’s will. Thus when we combine Jesus’ self description here in this verse we end up with something like “the true, faithful divine Messiah-servant of God”.
A little background concerning the church at Sardis:
- About 30 miles SE of Thyatira, a city located in a fertile area (thus commercially important), but was really known for their dedication to the arts, especially music. One might think of Sardis as an ancient New Orleans. Much of the “entertainment” found on Bourbon St. could be found in Sardis as well.
A Bit of Background Concerning the Church at Thyatira
- Although we’re uncertain how the church came to be in Thyatira, Acts 16.14-15 mentions the conversion of Lydia who was from the area.
12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
- A small city, but important for trade. The major road that led to Pergamum ran though Thyatira.
I. The Dangers of Superficial Distinctions (2.1-7)
2 My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
A Bit of Background Concerning the Church at Pergamum
- about 60 miles north of Smyrna.
- known for being a great religious, intellectual, and medical hub of the day.
- the city was known for containing the alter of Zeus, one of the 7 wonders of the world. Also had the first temple dedicated to Ceasar.
- the city contained a medical center which accompanied the worship of the deity of medicine, Aesculapius (signified by a coiled snake on a pole).
A Bit of Background Concerning the Church At Smyrna:
- A port city located about 35 miles north of Ephesus. Current location is known as Izmir, Turkey.
- A disciple of the apostle John served as pastor there until he was martyred around 155 AD.
- A city of obvious wealth, known for its resorts, spas, and market places (Hunter, 29). First-hand geographical accounts in the first century describe Smyrna as “a beautiful city”.
- We are not told in the Bible how the church came to exist in the city, many assume the gospel spread there from Ephesus.
- The normal pattern for the letter given to each of the churches includes a: Commendation, Correction, Consequence of unheeded correction, and Conquering Promise. The church at Smyrna is one of two churches (along with Philadelphia) not given a Correction/Consequence.
- This is also the shortest of the 7 letters.